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Selecting a Property Manager, Screening Renters, Maintenance Concerns & Fees


What is the single most important skill you should look for in a property management firm? The ability to screen out high risk applicants and rent to the good ones. This is critical to avoid potential expensive litigation in the future.

You should always find a manager who knows how to screen prospective renters. The property management company should have a written policy that is given to prospective renters. Having a policy can prevent the company from illegally discriminating, even unintentional discrimination. Other questions to ask include (1) is the written policy adhered to?, (2) How are exceptions made?, and (3) Does the supervisor review every decision?

It is not recommended that you require the property management firm to contact you prior to accepting a new resident. This can lead to a fair housing compliant.

In order to locate good renters you should set up criteria well before your search. Some of the more popular requirements include:

1) Minimum income levels (three times the monthly rent is average)
2) Detailed information regarding an applicants' rental history or prior ownership, and
3) Credit history.

You can also preset your conditions for a pet policy. However, be careful, you must accept service pets with no deposit! Other polices also include deposit levels, smoking policy, and the number of persons allowed in the rental.

Some property management companies also run criminal background checks. This is something I suggest.

Other important considerations include the property management's company ability with regard to property maintenance. How do calls get answered? How are incoming calls from residents tracked by the property manager? How are emergencies handled? How is it determined when the owner will be contacted? How are vendors selected? Is there an in house maintenance division? How are after hours calls handled?

Fees you will be charged is generally very important to most property owners. While this is important, the other items discussed above are much more important so you don't end up in a situation like my client Connie Cook. Single family managers will typically charge a lease fee, a management fee, and fees for bounced checks.

The bottom line, have very candid discussions with your potential property management firm. Carefully review any agreements they require you to sign. Remember, saving a little money upfront can cost you thousands upon thousands of dollars later in litigation if you rent to the wrong tenant.

For more information you may visit the web site of Robert Machado at www.homepointe.com.

The Law Offices of James V. Sansone is located in Santa Rosa, California and litigates numerous landlord tenant disputes including evictions, contract and lease disputes, evictions after foreclosure, and problem tenants, throughout Sonoma County, Mendocino County, and Lake County, including Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Windsor, Bodega Bay, Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Lakeport, and Kelseyville.

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